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Future Southwest station areas draw $1B in development.

Byline: Brian Johnson

Crews have yet to put down a track for the $1.5 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit line, but that hasnt stopped developers from moving ahead with a host of residential and commercial projects near future station areas. Metropolitan Council officials said in a report released Wednesday that developers have proposed, completed or started more than $1 billion worth of projects along the future 14.5-mile route. Thats almost double the count from a year ago. As of January 2017, roughly $515 million worth of development was underway or in the pipeline within a half-mile of light rail stations. The route extends from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. For all existing and future transit lines in the Twin Cities area, $.4 billion worth of projects are complete, in the ground, or in progress within a half-mile of LRT stations. That figure is up from $6. billion in January 2017, according to the report. Met Council officials cite the numbers as proof of light rails benefits and economic development clout, but not everyone is convinced. State Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said in an interview that while some developers may be attracted specifically to the corridor, he believes a lot of that development would have happened anyway in another part of the community. It gets a little overblown, said Torkelson, who chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee. While there may be development occurring around these [light rail] lines, some of it would have happened with or without the project. Met Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff said in a press release that businesses and developers choose proximity to light rail because they know that residents and workers of all ages are increasingly demanding access to transit, whether for housing, work, school or entertainment. Three of Minnesotas 17 Fortune 500 companies C.H. Robinson, SuperValu and UnitedHealth Group are on the future Southwest line, the council said. At present, 64,300 jobs are within a half-mile of the 15 planned Southwest stations, with another 16,600 to come by 2035, the council said. A good chunk of Southwests ancillary development is clustered around the West Lake Street station area in Minneapolis. Completed projects there include Bader Developments $45 million, 150-unit Shoreham building, at 3907 Highway 7 in St. Louis Park on the Minneapolis border, and Greystar Partners $36 million, 90-unit Lakes Residences complex at 2622 W. Lake St. in Minneapolis,. A massive redevelopment of the Calhoun Towers site is planned across from the station. The plan calls for two 22-story towers and two six-story apartment buildings that would surround the existing 22-story Calhoun Towers structure at 3430 List Place. Minneapolis senior planner Joe Bernard said that station area has been a desirable place to develop even without the promise of light rail. He added that other investments, such as good sidewalk connections, are part of the mix. Even so, the scale of development that you see near light rail stations probably would not have been as feasible without the light rail, Bernard said. In Eden Prairie, Timberland Partners is planning a $60.6 million, 222-unit apartment complex at 12900 and 12950 Technology Drive, where a vacant restaurant and an empty bank branch currently sit. The site is adjacent to the SouthWest Transit Station, which is on Technology Drive just north of the Purgatory Creek wetland area and south of Highway 212 in Eden Prairie. In Minnetonka, the Landon Group and a California company are building a $60 million, 240-unit apartment complex at 400-550 Bren Road, which is 600 feet from the future Southwest Opus Station. Recently completed projects along the Southwest line include the Moline Apartments at 0 Eighth Ave. S. in Hopkins. The $50 million project, developed by Doran Cos., is adjacent to the Downtown Hopkins station. As Finance & Commerce reported in December, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and city of Hopkins are seeking a master developer for the Hopkins Cold Storage property, an underused 17-acre site that touches Minnehaha Creek and is across the road from the future Blake Road station. The district-owned property is within the southeast quadrant of Blake Road North and Lake Street Northeast. St. Louis Park has seen two major proposals for redevelopment near light rail stops, said Karen Barton, the citys community development director. That includes a plan from PLACE, a nonprofit developer, to build 299 apartment units, a 1-room hotel and more at the southeast quadrant of Highway 7 and Wooddale Avenue. The $12.1 million project is expected to begin later this year, Barton said. The project is less than a half-mile from the proposed Wooddale Station. Also in St. Louis Park, Sherman Associates is proposing several hundred units of rental housing, retail, a park-and-ride and other development connected to the Beltline Boulevard Station, which is just east of Highway 0 and south of Highway 7, Barton said. Barton said light rail has been an economic driver in the city, especially at the planned station areas. We would not have seen that kind of development in those areas had light rail not been proposed to come through there and have stations there, she said, adding that other properties will likely see reinvestment or new development after light rail construction begins. Looking at other current or proposed transit lines, the report said: [[bullet]]The Green Line route between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis has seen $5. billion in station-area development, up from $5.1 billion in January 2017. [[bullet]]Development along the Blue Line, which runs from the Mall of America in Bloomington to downtown Minneapolis, is valued at about $1 billion. But the Met Council said the actual development value is higher because it only started tracking investments in the past year and what was originally reported is outdated or incomplete. [[bullet]]The Blue Line extension project, also known as the Bottineau, has attracted $522 million in station-area investment, up from $49 million a year ago. The Blue Line extension will connect downtown Minneapolis with the northwest suburbs. Meanwhile, the Southwest project is still waiting for a full funding grant agreement from the federal government, which would pay for half of the projects cost. On Monday, the Center for the American Experiment, a conservative think tank, interpreted a new report from the Federal Transit Administration as saying the feds are not interested in funding Southwest or other Minnesota transit projects in fiscal year 2019. Met Council officials are downplaying the report, which describes the Capital Investment Program that states can apply to for federal match funds. Were pleased to see the projects still maintain their medium-high ratings this tells us they are strong projects that compete well nationally, Met Council spokeswoman Kate Brickman said in an email. Brickman said President Trump proposed cutting the entire CIG program in his 201 budget, as well as the proposed 2019 budget. But Congress approved a resolution that fully funded the CIG program and appropriated $ million to Southwest in 2017, she added. [divider] Related: Minnetonka apartment plan cozies up to light rail Busy Lake Calhoun area draws Denver developer [divider] Like this article? Gain access to all of our great content with a month-to-month subscription. SPECIAL:Start your subscriptionwith our low intro rate of just $14.95.

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Publication:Finance and Commerce
Geographic Code:1U4MN
Date:Feb 15, 2018
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